The Solgave Project – Rebirth
It was two years ago, almost to the day, that we announced something called “The Solgave Project.” There is no need to connect any dots between now and then, because it’s all been documented in blogs and lived through real life changes. But we are launching our dream as an official non profit organization with a powerful new member of the team, and thus a deep need for a rebirth of the the Solgave Project.
We were two star crossed lovers who met on “A Link on a Chain of Destiny” and knew that to stay together we literally had to use fast and furious synergy to build something, and build it fast.
Somewhere early in that year on the farm in Sweden I wrote “Solgave- The Birth, The Growth, and The Dream.” Reading it again recently gave me laughs, tears, and goose bumps at how far we’ve come, and how close to the course on that original map we have stayed.
So here we are. I’m now catching up our new followers, and filling in some gaps for others along the way. And I think most importantly, setting out a new area of the map for our own charting of the seas.
One thing I can’t stress enough about our dream is how the view 10 years in the future looks like has not changed.
Before I share ideas about what the non profit organization (we got accepted into the University of Arkansas Legal Clinic for the Fall to help guide us through all steps, but have registered the name and will take a couple steps this summer and have their help finish it by December) is going to do, I want to talk about two special people involved deeply in this journey.
My wife and Tricia Jennings.
Yesterday I did a phone interview with Tricia, and typed furiously as she was in route to one of many meetings that day. I type fast enough to have grabbed 600 words or so, and knew I could turn that into something that may help you guys understand who she is, why she is part of our team, and how her dream of working with animals and helping to see them heal humans came about.
I am no dog trainer myself, but I am dialed into and have always been fascinated by people. I was reading about Jung at 11 and told the world I wanted to be a psychiatrist. Okay, it wasn’t the world it was a church youth camp out. But I remember the time and place. Something about a strange awareness shift, where I realized I was sensitive to human emotions in a way that was different.
I’m good at spotting talents and unique people, and Tricia is one of those.
Through a mutual friend she had heard about our Pack Walks, or the very first one in fact. I remember an email from a lady who was the Training Coordinator for the Great Plains Mastiff Rescue (and some other title) and that she would love to come, but had just broken her foot. I had a nice, but short conversation with her, and remember thinking in the back of my head…I hope we meet some day.
As fate would have it, we would all eventually meet.
Tricia had read our blogs. She had looked at the site. She started to understand that our philosophy and long term vision was the same thing she shared. I get goose bumps writing this part because of they nature of our relationships today.
During a post about our Second Chance t-shirts she called us and said she’d love to help us out a little. We met in person for the first time, she donated $200 quietly to help us print those shirts and we talked for half an hour maybe. She had her therapy dog Zaida with her and that would be our first real interaction and support.
She let us know that she was no longer with the Great Plains Mastiff Rescue and while her spare time is limited, she would love to donate some of her time to help. “I believe in what you guys are doing. I believe you two can do it.”
Tricia does not feel too comfortable being interviewed, talked about, or certainly not have her credentials or career be known. I had to ask her every question to get answers, not that she was hiding who she was, it was just not important. Humility guides this women’s soul. We knew we had to keep her in our lives, if for nothing else, the selfish reason to stay on our own path of aspired humility. Its one thing to preach humility and equality, it’s another to see someone live it.
In late 2003 she left the Wal-Mart world after 10 or more years. She was a rising star in the management program, and while she was about to get her first store in the NW Area of the US – she was called to take an interview in the sleepy town of Bentonville. “Where?” she had asked. She literally had no idea where this town was and was honestly quite happy where she was at.
She flew into Drake (the only airport of the time), interviewed, flew back home, and told her boss “No way I’m taking that job and moving my family there.” This was a vertical move, and one that showed great promise, so her boss forcefully nudged her (as she tells the story) and her daughter, and they ended up in NWA almost 20 years ago.
“When did you know that you would work with animals or when did that dream begin?”
“Probably in my childhood I knew that to have a career based on working with animals would be a dream.”
Like most of us, she fast tracked in the path she knew, college, work, and rising the ranks. In spring of 2003 she left Wall Mart to avoid what she refers to as a “breakdown of sorts.” Her mind, body, and spirit were being taxed intensely.
She took one year off and thought maybe that was the end of one journey and the beginning of another. Tricia has had a long history of knowing animal behavior with horses and dogs. But, primarily horses at that time. She got EAGALA Certified as an Equine Therapy Instructor and a Parelli Level 3.
To hear her tell it, her hard-wired science brain that is fueled by logic and the left side, had her thinking that horses as prey animals were best suited for traditional training. Groundwork. Riding techniques and all that follows. During that year, her horse Nabiel suddenly became her teacher. She realized she gained “trust” from him and witnessed “breakthroughs” that her traditional mind and experience had not seen yet!
Then that summer her husband David’s two boys came to stay with them from up north. She witnessed the effects the horses had on those two boys as well and her ideas became very pronounced in how horses and healing really match up. So ten years ago, she began the same thinking and took some action steps to work towards the same type of dream.
But as she said, “Those boys needed their daddy” and for economic reasons it made sense for her to go back to work.
This time it was on her terms as President of Planning and Logistics for the newly created “Your Arkansas Connection” (a vendor support company) and also formed FINE Consulting (their own company). Tricia was back in the grind of the corporate world and dealing with Wal-Mart, but on the other side of the coin as many people do in their careers with the largest retailer in the world.
So through those ten years, she gave riding lessons, got involved in big ways in the Great Plains Mastiff Rescue and used Zaida the therapy dog in retirement homes, schools, and more. This lady does not stop. 80 hour work weeks and she’s the first to text us “what do you guys need for snacks at the pack walk!” Uhmmmmm, we just need you to slow down, haha!
She’s super-human in her tenacity and has an innate sense of human and animal instincts that makes her a great teacher.
Now, how and why did her and Sunniva come together and why did the 3 of us realize that we could perhaps benefit each other in some way?
(I’m still not sure how we benefit her, but I trust in the Universe that in some way maybe getting her back to her spiritual calling with animals may be part of the destiny here)
She has a Mastiff named Sarge she hired Sunniva to help work on. She had spent a year with one trainer who she respects immensely, but after that journey she realized that Sunniva might be the one to help. All of her observations during that year led her to two main points as she told me during that interview.
1) Never be afraid to adjust your training methods. To try and to fail is to really succeed in tough cases, and Sarge was a tough case. (Long story for another day)
2) She never believed that dogs could provide the same teaching and healing as horses. She had spent 25 years around them, and as I mentioned was the Training Coordinator for the GPMR but always focused on the left-brain side. The hard science. The academic aspects.
This is how the journey with Sunniva and Tricia took root. Sunniva did a video of the assessment of Sarge and she left in awe at the humility of this lady who was so knowledgeable, yet had blind trust in Sunniva’s gift. As Tricia says, “I wish I had her innate senses, but I don’t. But, I have enough horse experience and what they have taught me about our capacity to heal, see the reflection through the work with them, that I appreciate it. So I think that is the real bridge between Sunniva and I.”
Breakthrough’s happened with Sarge, and breakthrough’s happened for all of us as we realized in an unspoken fashion that I think we found a real friend, a real mentor, and the person we wanted to be the President of our Board of Directors when we started the non profit.
We were given Tricia’s blessing to do training workshops at her farm and the setting is the most ideal I had seen. The front office of a vet, or a retail store lacks the powerful energy of this barn used for events at this horse ranch.
Where human psychology meets animals had been our loose tagline and we booked our first workshop! I wouldn’t say it went bad, I just know that any first event you do without lots of structure has some gaps missing.
Tricia was there and slid in at the exact times to help dialogue flow and the more traditional learning style attendees she’s quickly slide in as the Jedi she is.
The recognition that Tricia made at some point last year was that most people are being limited on what training can do for them. Yes, we want well trained, well behaved dogs that bring balance into a home. But it doesn’t stop there. (THIS IS THE SOLGAVE APPROACH!) Using Sunniva’s dream of having animals teach and heal, and Tricia’s awareness that most training in the US stops right where the magic can begin, is what led us to all say “Can we take this road together?”
I’m going to get back to this and close with what will soon be a mission statement that clearly defines what our Solgave Project’s intentions are and what makes us unique.
It’s rare to find two types of trainers like this who work with such respect and synergy together. I’ve done some looking around the country and not seen a pair join up to create this “right brain meets left” approach, so that each participant has a chance to see the traditional training methods that are so vital and then see the part we believe is often left out. Where the good training ends, is the mystique of how animals teach us, show us our anxieties, fears, and as science is showing proves to be powerful therapeutic tools for children, elderly, and adults with a variety of issues (anxiety, fear, PTSD, etc.)
We had a breakthrough moment as I sat down working on the Articles of Incorporation for Solgave Second Chance, where we realized we were not ready for this with two small kids. We had been swept up in the past year of what I call the river of life. So while taking dogs that need rehabilitation and using them to help people is a major branch of the tree that is Solgave, it just didn’t feel right now.
Like a massive weight lifted from our shoulders, we dug into marriage and life and business and did a hard reset on why we spent every penny we had, on twice moving across the globe. It was not to get rich folks; it at its core has and always will be about helping others.
“The Solgave Project” is coming back.
Through our classes we did for the public, the demonstrations we would do before each pack walk on topics like “Children and Dogs” “The Yellow Dog Project” it became clear there was a link missing that would allow our talents to be used today to help in the most maximized way. Communication, awareness, education, and healing with therapy dog use.
We realized with a flood of excitement that “The Solgave Project” is our 501c3 and it’s something we don’t have to wait for.
Tricia accepted our offer to become an official member of the organization, so now we are heading out together with loose plans, big dreams, and a new partner – both in the company Solgave Animal Solutions, and in our passion – the non profit the Solgave Project. Tricia is certified as a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator and through the organization “Love on a Leash” certified to certify therapy dogs/handlers as well. She is certified to hold the AKC S.T.A.R puppy classes as well, so our puppy classes will now be along those lines, with Sunniva as her assistant.
We hope to do CGC evaluations at the farm where all our workshops, classes, and team training happens. While the credentials for us have never been important, results were, we realize it helps add validity to the team. By the fall you’ll likely see her as AKC-CPDT-KA (until the 300 hours is up) and we are seeking her CBATI (Canine Behavior Adjustment Training Instructor) credentials by September. She would be the only one in Arkansas, and the south to hold that title (the closest is in Chicago!).
Zaida the Mastiff, the therapy dog will immediately get work through our project. She islined up at the Block Party in Fayetteville for a demonstration to show kids about how to approach safely, etc. There was a serendipitous moment when a local business owner and sponsor of our One Year Anniversary Pack Walk” asked if we would be interested in holding that class on the kids stage (which is in their training room behind the business).
Our first initiative (and we plan on 4 per year) will be to canvas NWA with information, videos, getting on morning news shows, print, and entering schools and your parks to achieve my goal of having every family in NWA know what “The Yellow Dog Project” means in 100 days. Can we do it? I doubt it.
But it’s how our initiatives within the project will work. We know that NWA needs to understand what yellow ribbons on leashes mean, and why it can help so many dogs and people! We’ve done two demonstrations on the Yellow Dog just prior to our pack walks.
So here is the Solgave Project with a rebirth. We want to touch on and work with organizations tied to children and outdoor learning, we want to get our small dog trained to be a therapy dog for kids, we want to use our voice and communication and passion for helping in the best ways we see throughout the year.
We are excited to give demonstrations at schools, we are excited to enter homes with Tricia and Zaida the therapy dog, we are excited to see where this journey takes us all.
As a business owner I want to have the best pet sitting, dog walking, and behavior modification company we can, and we will keep getting better and keep growing.
The Solgave Project is our heart beat and is the reminder of why we moved to the United States to start this journey again.
In some ways we’ve come full circle with the project, but in life you often have to do that to make sure you were on the right track to begin with.
So the Solgave Project is a big tree. It’s a dream. It’s the place where traditional training ends and the other aspect begins. The humble road of seeing animals as our teachers, our mirrors, our healers, and our friends.
Thank you to everyone who has watched us form this concept in Sweden two years ago and shape and mold and adapt and fall and get back up and fall again and get back up. We won’t stop until we reach that few hundred acres and Solgave Project has a home and central place to do all the things we will have learned to do, and people and relationships we will have formed to be part of it.
Tricia is an example that this is so much bigger than two people, it’s an idea and a hope and a real mission for us. We will join forces with experts in areas we are not that believe in the direction much like Tricia was one to link up.